Wednesday, June 30, 2021


A pretty good day. Only 1883 steps, although I got all the way around the garden by myself this morning. Much of the rest of the day was devoted to tennis and feeble knitting. Murray is playing – he started well. I mean to go on watching for a while, but I doubt if I’m strong enough for much more knitting. How I used to rejoice, in earlier decades, that my passion in life required so little physical effort. It turns out not to be as little as all that.


Here’s another picture from the cruise – C. and I up to goodness-knows-what, photographed by Christine, a solitary traveller interested in birds. We didn’t know she took pictures of people as well – a Miss Marple-type character? Notice that I have (a) cider (b) my iPad (in its red cover) and (c) my knitting. All that life requires:

Tuesday, June 29, 2021


Another peaceful day of Wimbledon.


I was much taken aback by the third set of Murray’s match yesterday – he had won the first two sets, and was up 5-0 in the third, and then proceeded to lose seven consecutive games, and the third set. I was sure he was going to lose the match and it was already late and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to sleep, so I stopped watching. But just before going to bed, not much later, I had a last look at my email and spotted a headline: “Murray break up in fourth set”. What on earth? So I had a look and it didn’t mean what I had assumed: Murray was a break up, and went on to win the set and therewith the match. The indefinite article makes all the difference. What an odd and interesting language we speak!


The sock is somewhat advanced, but not as much as it should be. I tried the system I used to employ in my youthful and vigorous days, when I would use Wimbledon to catch up on the ironing. I would stop ironing and watch intently whenever there were 30 points against the server. I did that for a while with the sock. My notes say I want 65 rounds from the end of the gusset shaping to the beginning of the toe shaping. That seems rather a lot. At the moment, I’ve done about 35.


Thank you for your comments yesterday. I look better in those pics than I feel – or, indeed, than I am. Helen and I got around the garden this morning (rather to my surprise) – 2026 steps today. I’ll have to do it alone tomorrow. It is remarkable how much difference four days’ absence has made to the garden.

Monday, June 28, 2021


I’ve had a lovely first-day-of-Wimbledon, and must hurry back to watch Murray. I’m not as much further forward with that sock as I ought to be – but somewhat.


Helen has sent me pictures from our weekend in Perthshire. Me and the cats:


Me and Perdita in the commonty:


Me and a tree in the Den – the bosky bit between the house and the commonty:


That’s not just any old tree, either. It’s a poplar. Long ago, somewhere around 1970, my husband planted an acre or so with poplars. When we next got back, he found that deer had eaten almost all of them. Helen and I – where was everyone else? – were sent down there to rescue the few survivors. It was the Christmas holiday. It wasn’t just a matter off applying a spade or a fork. We had to disengage the roots from the freezing mud with frozen fingers. The experience has left a deep impression on both of us. She was probably 8 or 9. We rescued three or four trees and brought them home.


I don’t remember the next step. Maybe my husband planted them himself. But there they still are, and Helen and I are now rather proud of them.

Sunday, June 27, 2021


Safely back, and we all had a grand time.


I was appalled at what a dead weight I have become. Putting it another way, at how much weaker I am than the last time I was there, nearly a year ago.


On Saturday morning, we went down the commonty, all five of us – for Helen’s dog Farouk was a member of the party. Helen took some pictures which I hope she’ll share. I remember the last time my husband made that journey. C. was there. He sort of gave way on the way back. We brought a chair out from the house for him to sit on for a while. Eventually we got him back to the house and called an ambulance. They came promptly, found blood sugar very low, restored him to the land of the living without having to carry him off. I refused, in the later semi-active months of his life, to take him to Kirkmichael without someone else to back me up.


No such crisis this time, but I found it tough going.


As for knitting, I got round the heel of the Kaffe Fassett sock and started down the foot.


And I’m afraid I greatly enjoyed the downfall of the Minister of Health. During or just after the War, one of the famous radio comedy shows was “Hancock’s Half Hour”. The title has provided many a burst of ribald laughter on social media in the last 48 hours.

Thursday, June 24, 2021


So, Kirkmichael tomorrow. I am suffering a bit from departure-anxiety, although not nearly as badly as for the cruise. And I’ll have my cats with me. I am a bit of a dead weight these days: it is noble of Helen to take me on. I should be back here on Monday.


I’ve done that heel flap, turned the heel, and picked up the gusset stitches. I remember when I first turned a heel – I’ve probably told you this. We were driving from New Jersey to Dallas to spend Christmas with my grandparents, probably in ’47 or ’48 when I would have been 14 or 15.  I was knitting a pair of Christmas-present socks for my father. I had got the impression from various bits of girls’ reading that heels were tricky. I did what the pattern said to do, and it wasn’t difficult at all. 

I spent some time fairly recently – I think it is chronicled in this blog somewhere – trying out different systems, but have come happily back to the one I regard as basic. The only modification over the years has been to pick up a couple of extra stitches, including one in the ladders between the gussets and the top of the sock, to get rid of that maddening little hole. I’m pretty good at that, by now.


Archie came this morning, but we didn’t get all the way around the garden. Only 1252 steps today. He will come with Helen tomorrow to get the cats into their travelling cages. We’ll have to do it ourselves, coming home.


Someone on the cruise was reading “Wilding” – it’s all the rage, these days. It’s pleasant to dream about what we might do, if we ever got our fields back into our own hands. But it’s clearly difficult. Our paddock has been untouched for quite a while now – it used to be grazed. All that has happened is nettles, where the driveway was made through it, and raspberries. We are much plagued with deer.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021


I heard a weatherman on the radio say this week that there were some places in the south of England which had been warmer on the winter solstice than they had been this week, on the summer one.


I had a good Italian lesson. I was surprised to learn that my tutor is not interested in football. I thought all Italians were. She was surprised to learn that there isn’t a Prince of Scotland or a Prince of England, given that there is a Prince of Wales.


No knitting, I’m afraid. And no excuse for not doing that heel flap this evening,


Alexander came over. 2211 steps. I won’t see him again for a while – school broke up today, and they will all retreat to Loch Fyne tomorrow.


Today is Rachel’s birthday: marking the first day of the rest of my life, as well.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021


Another nice day. C. came, and we got all the way around the garden. Just keep talking, is the secret – easy, in our case, with the cruise to talk about. Steps today an acceptable 2439.


I’m only two or three rounds short of the heel flap, on those Kaffe Fassett socks. But I’ve got a catch-up Italian lesson tomorrow morning so mustn’t idle about knitting this evening.


I took this useful gadget with me on the cruise. I haven’t used it for years. Its sole function in life is to carry a sock-in-progress and sock needles, and for that purpose it is simply brilliant. I’ve long since forgotten what it’s called or who sells it. Maureen, was that you? Do you remember? One of you came to see me – fresh from Shetland, I think – and showed it to me.


Well, I’ve finished telling you about the cruise. There is a flatness to the narrative which feeds my suspicion that I am really too old for such an adventure. The next problem, on that front, is that another one looms: when our May cruise was cancelled last year, we moved the booking forward to this year (that’s the cruise we’ve just been on) – but we also booked a “Captain’s Choice” cruise for the end of the 2020 season – surely all this Covid business would be over by then – just to have something to look forward to. And when that was cancelled, we transferred the booking to an “Isles of the Southern Hebrides”  leaving in, I think, late August, ‘21. C. is still game. We shall see.


One of the many wonderful things about the experience was to sail away from Covid for 10 days. The Majestic Line had taken a lot of precautions, including reducing the number of passengers. I suspect we were all double-vaccinated. They took our temperature every morning with one of those useful machines like a stun-gun. And after that, the subject was simply forgotten except for wearing masks in the tender and when ashore. I told Alexander last week: he was surprised that we didn’t talk about it. C. agreed this morning that we didn’t, but like me, she couldn’t remember what we did talk about. There was the evening devoted to Scottish separatism. One of us was a nurse who had some highly entertaining stories about some of her professional experiences. (There’s nowt so queer as folks.) That still leaves a lot of supper-table time which passed in pleasant, but forgotten, conversation.





Monday, June 21, 2021


The longest day. It's all downhill from here.

I continue to improve, or at any rate not to get any worse. Helen came this morning and we got part-way around the garden. It’s a start.


And I knit a bit more. I’m not far now from the first heel of those Kaffe Fassett socks – and the leg is quite a long one.


Fruity Knitting is back, with an episode about Bohus Stickning. I first heard of it in Sheila McGregor’s “Traditional Scandinavian Knitting”, and haven’t made much progress with it since. Andrew’s absence is a dreadful lack, both in the sense that Andrea’s pain is terrible to behold and that his cheerful contribution is irreplaceable.




My final report:

 “Sunshine again. Tobermory in the morning. I've been there once, didn't attempt it, didn't regret it. Castle Duart this afternoon. Again, I didn't attempt it. Far too much up-hill-ery. But this one I was slightly sorry about.


Alan the bird man saw his golden eagle. He didn't get a photograph, alas”


He did, in the morning, point out to me where his parents met: adjacent terrace houses in Tobermory. One of them was his mother’s family house. His father, a young schoolmaster, boarded in the other.


He (Alan) was a thoroughly expert bird man, and I soon abandoned my book. I have at least, thanks to him, seen a bonxie, Shandy. He took a brilliant photograph of one coming in to land on the water. I watched one – perhaps that very bird – bobbing about while gulls tried to torment it. The bonxie knew it was boss. And I learned – or, at least, was told – never to say “seagull”. There are half a dozen different gulls, of which the “common gull” is far from the most common.

C.'s photographs illustrate our day rather well:


And Castle Duart. Our skipper said he has been calling rhere for 20 years and has never seen it without scaffolding:

Sunday, June 20, 2021


I feel much better, and have eaten almost normally. I didn’t go out, which was a shame, because it looked like a lovely day. I must certainly make that effort tomorrow. And it looks as if Helen and I and the cats can go to Kirkmichael next weekend – her son Fergus and some of his university friends are going to be there for a week, but it turns out they’re not arriving until Monday the 28th. We can have the preceding Friday-Sunday. That will be after the solstice, which is rather a shame, but you can’t have everything. And the cats won’t notice.


I even got a bit of knitting done today, down towards the heel of those Kaffe Fassett socks.

Tamar: I don't know of any association between low blood sugar and itching, but when Michaela was telling me her symptoms last Thursdsy she mentioned that the palms of her hands were itching. I had exactly the same symptom. And the internet says that it can be a sign of anaemia. I am often assailed by itching at night. I was thoroughly checked out out by a geriatric clinic three years ago, but one wonders...t




Not very interesting:


Grey, rainy. We were offered a walk after an early lunch. Oronsay, I think it was, on Skye. I didn't attempt it. Tomorrow will be Canna towards which we are currently steaming. It is said to be a small island which one can walk around. I'll skip that too. Then Tobermory. Then Oban and home to my cats. I miss them desperately.


Then the next day:


"The sun has come back, although not warmly, and Canna this morning was a great success. It is full of interesting things to look at. I stayed on board as planned but even I could see quite a bit as the boat swung in slow arcs from its anchor. I had been worried because C. wasn't being offered,much in the way of  the walks I had promised but today has compensated somewhat. At the moment they are all striding around Muck which looks much.less interesting.


Then we went to see some puffins and I saw them but they were flying and a puffin is really not very interesting unless it will stand still and let you admire its beak. 

 Lots of bouncing"

 Today’s pics are all from Canna:

Saturday, June 19, 2021

 Goodness, where were we?


My invaluable cleaner Michaela came on Thursday morning. We chatted for a while. Her small son has a hernia problem, and will be seen by a specialist next week. An hour later she came to find me, pale, sweating, itching. I phoned Helen who said she’d come and drive Michaela home – then phoned back to say that a taxi would be quicker and simpler. So we did that. In the midst of all this an Amazon delivery arrived, and after that two men in masks. I don’t think they were Jehovah’s Witnesses, but beyond that hypothesis I don’t know who they were. Then Archie, who found Perdita on the front step. She always rushes for the door when the bell rings, and if she gets out, counts on her devoted family to usher her back in. The system had failed.


After all this had calmed down, I had a blameless lunch of haddock fillet – purchased by Archie as he walked down the hill – and steamed potatoes and then developed a fairly violent diarrhoea. To which was added, yesterday, what I think might be technically called anorexia: the best I could do all day was to swallow a couple of teaspoons-ful of plain yoghurt.


I’ve been much better today – Rice Krispies for breakfast, half a tin of Cream of Mushroom for lunch, and I might even cook a little something for supper. I am pleasantly surprised to discover that my aged frame retains some resilience.


Meanwhile Michaela (back today, now much better) says she has been diagnosed as anaemic but also had low blood sugar – my own diagnosis.


So, no Kirkmichael yesterday. Those cats sat side by side at the inner door, not hissing at each other for once, and plainly said, “You told us we were going to Burnside today…”


More cruise tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021


Alexander came to see me, and may come again next week, before they sequester themselves at Loch Fyne for the summer. It’s been a while since I've seen him. I was stronger today; we got all the way around the garden, and my step-count is almost up to a feeble 2000.


KnitNance and Tamar, comments yesterday, you’re right that I must be careful about eating. In youth, hunger took care of the problem, but nowadays that can’t be guaranteed.


No knitting. What I need is to get back in the way of watching television.




Here’s my report for Friday, June 4:

We spent last night in the Gairloch, not Loch Torridon as I told you, and this morning came to Portree. It was bumpy, the worst we've had. I went ashore, for the first time, and bought a stripey jacket. I am very feeble. Portree is somewhat better than Tobermory. After a blowy, off-and-on-y day, we're having a beautiful evening. We will stay here tonight.

 I bought the stripey jacket at a place called Skye Batik (I think). They’ve got a lot of interesting clothes. Here is a picture of me and C:


And here is another in which the jacket is more conspicuous:


And here is one of Portree. It’s a nice place.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

 I have been desperately feeble today – I who scaled Mt Dublin Street yesterday and made kimchi. Helen came, but the only possible walk was to get to the garden and sit for a while on the nearest bench. I may not have eaten enough yesterday. Appetite has been poor lately.


Not much knitting, either. A few more rounds on the current sock. I settled down this morning to watch Franklin’s vlog about the Men’s Knitting Retreat – not without interest, but very short. Why didn’t those lambs have woolly mothers to look after them?


A new issue of Knitting magazine pointed me to – a delicious Finnish yarn shop. I am greatly taken with their Uschitita Yak Singles (a Dutch yarn, in fact) but it would be ridiculous to buy yarn when I sit here day after day not getting much of anything done.




Beth, I’m sure you’re right (comment yesterday) – the Stevensons designed and engineered lighthouses; didn’t own them. There was a book about the family on a small but useful bookshelf on the boat, but one of us commandeered it at the beginning of the voyage. Many of their lighthouses were built at inhospitable places, including both Ardnamurchan Point and Cape Wrath. I saw Muckle Flugga once, on my first trip to Shetland. It’s another Stevenson, on a tiny rocky outpost off the north of Unst – the most northerly geographical point of the British Isles. How do you get the men and materials there, to build a lighthouse?


Tamar, I agree with you – I take that picture yesterday to be of lobster pots.


Weavinfool asked on Sunday whether our fellow passengers were from Scotland, a propos of my mentioning the evening when the conversation at dinner was about Scottish independence and C. and I were silent. Essentially, yes. There were three married couples in the other three double cabins: two of them lived in Scotland, the other couple were thoroughly Scottish but lived in England. The two single travellers lived in England and were as silent as C. and I. The one thing everybody agreed on – C. and I could join in here – was that Boris Johnson has nothing to say to Scotland.


Shandy, I’ll get to birds. We had a real expert aboard. He claimed to have seen 63 different species on the cruise, and crowned his list with a golden eagle the last day.


Here’s another of my reports:


“Today was Inverewe and at the last moment I decided not to  go, to C.’s disgust. When they all came back complaining of midges I felt I had made the right decision. C.  took lots of pictures and it looks wonderful. I have promised to go ashore with her at the much more boring Tobermory -- with luck, it won't be early afternoon when I am at my feeblest.


Now we are on our way to Loch Torridon where we will spend the night. I was there 50 or 60 years ago in the youth hostel.”


Some pictures from Inverewe:

Monday, June 14, 2021


Today’s excitement was an appt with the dentist, during which my Birmingham friends left for their long drive. It has been perhaps seven months since I have been to the dentist, and I could detect that I am a couple of notches lower, strength-wise. Last time he spotted a couple of teeth that needed attention, and I persuaded him to wait until Covid had retreated. This time, when I was about to suggest a further postponement, he had his drill going before I could (so to speak) open my mouth.


So now I have sounder teeth (I hope) and less money. Dentists must have had a hard time lately, along with a lot of other people. Everything was very hygienic.


No knitting. The dentist’s office is very near, but straight up hill. It took a lot out of me. But I have been making kimchi, and have but to assemble and pot it before I go to bed.


Here is my report to my nearest and dearest on Day Five of the cruise: 

We got up early and went to Cape Wrath and then turned around and came back again. A long day. It was the first time the Majestic Line had reached it. This is a fairly new cruise and several iterations of it were cancelled last year and this. The others were impeded by the weather. The crew had themselves photographed there -- I'll try to get a copy (and who was driving the bus at that point?) 


Now we are anchored at Loch Nedd. The skipper chose it from a chart, never having been here. The sun is out. It's a beautiful spot, a beautiful evening. The able-bodied tried to go ashore but couldn't find a landing. Then the feeble were given a tour by tender. We saw deer -- grey, sort of donkey-coloured, not like Perthshire deer. And a seal.


You saw the picture of our crew at Cape Wrath a couple of days ago.


Here is C’s picture of Cape Wrath itself::


The lighthouse is by one of the Stevenson family, as are most of the great lighthouses of Scotland. They regarded Robert Louis as rather a weak limb on the family tree.


And here are two other pictures by C., from Loch Inver the night before. She has a brilliant eye, like her mother and like her uncle, my husband.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

 I’ve been watching/listening to the tennis for much of the afternoon. I don’t feel that anyone does it quite so well as Wimbledon.


And I’m pretty flat out again. No knitting except for a few sock rounds while I watched the recording of the Andrew Marr show. I succeeded in getting around the garden by myself again – that’s two days in a row.


However, a few of you have encouraged me to go on with an account of my cruise, so I’ll do that.


Here’s Day 4:“Weather not quite so grand, but perfectly acceptable. We've had an interesting day. This morning we went past Gruinard Island which is where they worked on anthrax as a biological weapon during the war. I knew there was such a place -- now I've seen it (from a safe distance). After lunch at the Summer Isles we had tender rides around them because it wasn't prudent to land for various reasons. Our leading birder starts a new list every month and had 13 species for June by lunchtime. Even I have seen a few.


Now we have dropped anchor at Loch Inver. -- still a long way from Cape Wrath.


 Last night at supper they talked about Scottish separation, C. and I remaining silent. It was instructive. 


I managed the tender in good order with careful attendance from the crew. I don't yet know what the plan is for tomorrow. Maybe I'll try again.”


C. and I were silent because our Unionist views wouldn’t have been acceptable.


Here are her pictures from that day.

 That's what the "wilderness" was like -- not heavy afforestation, as I had somewhat expected, but black rocks and lack of vegetation.

Here we are setting out in the tender for the Summer Isles. It used to be easy to rotate an image, but I can't seem to do it now:

Saturday, June 12, 2021


Thank you for more comforting messages. I walked yesterday with Archie, and again failed to get around the garden. I did perhaps slightly better than on Thursday. But today, by myself, I completed the circumference, and am much encouraged.


It is fun having my old friends here. I cancelled this morning’s Italian lesson in favour of giving them breakfast, and learned that Italian distinguishes between the two English meanings of “old friend” by the position of the adjective – vecchi amici or amici vecchi. The trouble is,  I can’t remember now which is which.


Despite the successful walk, I continue in a fairly convalescent state, and have done no knitting. I did find those socks, though.


So I will have to entertain you with accounts of my cruise. Here is the message I sent everybody on the first day:


“Well, here we are. It has been a long hard but very successful day. We're now sailing out past Ardnamurchan Point and the banging sound from the kitchen is said to be lobsters being prepared for our supper. I don't even think I'm the feeblest person on board.”


I was wrong about feebleness – I was the worst. The second message seems to be missing, except for a picture which I will spare you of the lighthouse on Ardnamurchan Point. Here is the third:


“Today was a picturesque village called Plockton of which I am not sure I've ever heard. I stayed aboard again, saving myself for Inverewe tomorrow but it turns out that (apparently) it won't be open so we are going on to the Summer Isles not far away which I think are devoted to birds. I will do whatever  is on offer as I am feeling rather confined. The skipper means to take advantage of the extraordinary weather to get us to Cape Wrath so then forever more we can say that we have been from Ardnamurchan Point to Cape Wrath. We hope to catch Inverewe on the way back.


C. took brilliant pictures. Here is one of our lunch in Oban, before embarking:

 Oban goes in for that sort of thing.

And here is Loch Sunart, our first mooring, she says. Since my report is missing I can’t comment:

But you can see how remarkable was the weather.

Thursday, June 10, 2021


Thank you for all your kind messages.


I’m feeling enormously feeble. In recent weeks, the object of life has been to be strong enough to get up the steps onto the boat on the 29th of May. I did that. I didn’t move all that much during the cruise. But, apart from anything else, amongst the provisions made for Covid was to declare the main-deck lavatory/head out of bounds for passengers, so at least one had to toil up and down the stairs to one’s en suite cabin from time to time.


The object of life now must be to recover the strength I had on the 29th of May. Archie came this morning. We got to the garden. We walked in the garden. But walking the circumference was beyond me. C. is coming tomorrow. 1622 steps so far today. Could be worse – must be better.


Here is a picture Archie took this morning, of Perdita watching from the window of the Catalogue Room as we got back from our walk. She was just like that when I got home on Tuesday, except that she was meowing. 

Everybody was calmer today. Helen proposes to take all three of us to Kirkmichael next weekend, virtually at the solstice. That would be wonderful. Paradox is a brilliant mouser, and Perdita, like me, enjoys strolling in the garden.


I don’t care for mice. They skitter so. But I was slightly encouraged, when we bought Burnside, to learn that field mice and house mice are different species and won’t live in the same house, I knew that there was a separate species of mouse on St Kilda. I learned on this cruise that there is another one on Canna. The island was recently purged of rats, and before that was done, a breeding colony of mice were removed so that they could be replaced afterwards. Once the rats were gone, the island was overrun with rabbits.


No knitting. I have been pondering on the problem suggested by my sidebar – where are the Kaffe Fassett socks which I claim as FO’s? I think I  remember them. This is slightly alarming, One of our fellow-passengers had vascular dementia as a follow-on from a stroke. His wife said it was getting worse fast, and she didn’t trust herself as a carer. (C. was far better than I at talking to people and learning things like that.)


I’ve embarked on The Forsyte Saga, recommended by my sister. So far, so good.


Old friends from Birmingham are coming tomorrow, so I probably won’t be here.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

 Safely home. The cats are well: glad to see me, I think, although it is not entirely easy to tell with a cat. Perdita was watching from the window of the Catalogue Room, and meowed a greeting as I came up the steps. Paradox has been purr-y and cling-y since, including sitting on my chest in the night, purring and touching my face with a gentle paw – which, alas, she was flexing in time with the purrs so it was sort of prickly.


We had a grand time. I wrote to my Loved Ones every day. I’ll dole out bits of that here, and photographs, as we go on. Here’s a picture of me in the tender, to start with:

That must have been at Portree. I came back before any of the others. That was the only day I went ashore. Most of the other passengers were vigorous retirees in their early 70’s. C., who is not yet that, was almost the youngest.


We got to Cape Wrath, the upper left-hand corner of the mainland of GB. The Majestic Line had never reached it before – this particular route was a recent addition to their list; several repeats of it had been cancelled, last year and this; and others had been deterred by the weather. Here’s our crew, recording the event: from left to right, cook, skipper, bo’sun, engineer. They were all superb. The lighthouse is by one of the Stevenson family.


I didn’t knit as much as hoped. Mostly I just stared vacantly into space. But the Pairfect socks are finished, and I am six or seven inches advanced into a pair of Kaffe-patterned Regia’s. I like a substantial amount of ribbing on a sock, although I don’t like knitting it. I am inclined to press ahead with this pair until I have finished the ribbing on the second sock, leaving it, thus, at a point when it is very likely to be finished (eventually).


And I’ve finished Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazalet series. Book 4 is perhaps a bit weak, as the author dutifully kills or marries-off  each of her characters.


More to follow.